Rupert Brooke is best known for his poem ‘The Soldier’ with its famous opening line ‘If I should die, think only this of me…’. When the Dean of St Paul’s in London read it out during his Easter Sunday sermon on 4 April 1915, one war protestor objected so loudly that he was removed from the cathedral. Three weeks later, on 23 April 1915, Brooke died on a troopship sailing to Gallipoli, and his early death transformed Cambridge’s soldier-poet into an iconic figure.
A new anthology, International Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology of Lost Voices (Bloomsbury, 2020; forthcoming in paperback April 2022), edited by Connie Ruzich, opens with the much less well-known and moving ‘Fragment’, found in one of Brooke’s last notebooks. International Poetry of the First World War incorporates writings from both combatants and noncombatants, men and women, as well as war poetry written outside the UK to help to recover a more nuanced understanding of what it meant to live through the First World War and its aftermath. It’s a wonderfully rich anthology featuring a diversity of voices and experiences and one of my selected books of 2021, which I’ll write about in my next blogpost.
Ann Kennedy Smith, 30 November 2021